Transcript - ABC Radio North Queensland with Michael Clarke

MICHAEL CLARKE [HOST]: Let's stay on the roads now, but not the roads around Townsville. Let's go further afield to our roads around the north west because they certainly need a bit of love and care. They can be not the easiest areas to drive from time to time. But this morning an announcement from the federal government with the government making investment into north Queensland's regional and remote roads infrastructure and spending more than $31 million for roads around the district, including around Charters Towers and also in the gulf area. To tell you more about this funding and what it means for you if you're a traveller is the Assistant Minister for Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm, who's with us now. Senator, thank you for your time this morning.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Michael, good to be with you.

CLARKE: Now you're making this announcement today only just come through, basically, where we're going to see a great deal of funding, $31 million, including roads around Charters Towers. The Dotswood Road and the Myola Road are being upgraded. Why is that necessary?

CHISHOLM: Because they're important roads to those local communities, but they also feed on to the busier roads between Townsville and Charters Towers. So, we know that they'll be important for safety, but also to improve travel times and also deal with the heavy vehicles that are constantly on those roads around that part of the world.

CLARKE: Now, for both of those areas, about $1.5 million being spent and we're likely to see that work completed by next year. What's going to happen?

CHISHOLM: Yes, we're partnering with the councils in those areas. So, we've put in 80 per cent, the council have put in 20 per cent and that means that we can get these projects done. The councils, as you can imagine, they've got enormous demand, so they're really keen to get on with the job and as you said, complete those projects as soon as possible.

CLARKE: Yeah. So, for those areas around Charters Towers, what sort of upgrade will we see?

CHISHOLM: What it will be is safety upgrades, ensuring that the corners and so forth are safe for the heavy vehicles that are doing a lot of work on those roads. And also, it leads to potentially progressively sealing more road as well.

CLARKE: Now, this is a big bucket of money. Thirty-one million dollars, as I said, much of that, or $16 million, in fact, is going into the north west for the Burketown-Normanton Road. That sounds like a big upgrade there. That work's going to stretch over a number of years. Can you tell us what that involves?

CHISHOLM: Yeah, so there's a strong safety element to this as well and I'll actually be out there later today with the mayor to be able to see it for myself and that will ensure that the road is progressively being sealed and ensuring that motorists that are using that road from tourism and freight, so supporting pasture and agriculture ventures in the area, it’ll ensure that road is safe and that can be expected to be completed in the first half of 2027.

CLARKE: I know there's been a lot of complaints about the condition of that road, but also roads generally in north and north west Queensland. Does it need to get to that serious of a state before money is offered in this way?

CHISHOLM: We know that there's enormous challenges for councils in maintaining and keeping these roads up to date. Obviously, the rain and weather conditions can cause a lot of damage, particularly after the wet season. So, we know that there's ongoing work that needs to be done. We're trying to provide as much certainty as possible for the funding that we can provide councils and we've also increased funding for programs like the Black Spot Program as well. So, we know that there's enormous need. We continue to do what we can to provide federal government support, but importantly, work constructively with councils in this regard as well.

CLARKE: Yes. Senator Anthony Chisholm with that roads announcement for you this morning, impacting roads around the Charters Towers region like Dotswood Road and Myola Road. That work getting underway soon. Now, one of the frustrations we often see, senator, is, you know, funding gets announced by one level of government, then we keep waiting for someone else to pony up the money as well to match it. But that's not an issue in this case, is that right. So, the councils have already contributed the money or are willing to do that, correct?

CHISHOLM: Yeah, that's the case and that gives us the confidence that these projects will be able to be completed relatively quickly. Obviously, some of them are bigger in scope than others, for instance, around the Normanton-Burketown Road. But we also know that it's important for those local communities. It gives those councils the confidence that they can go out there, if they need to, and get contractors on board. We know that there's enormous demand for this type of work, so it is hard to get those workers and contractors at the moment.

CLARKE: Senator, obviously this news is very welcome. The council's affected, very thankful and I'm sure the people who drive those roads will be happy to see that as well. But your visit also comes at a time when we've seen renewed calls for more work on the Bruce Highway after that terrible, tragic accident involving the bus just a couple of weeks ago. That stretch, particularly between Bowen and the Burdekin, often gets talked about. Not enough overtaking lanes, narrow stretches. All of those concerns, you know, is that something you're hearing? Is there more that can be done?

CHISHOLM: We did put additional money into the Bruce Highway in the last budget, so that was an additional $467 million. But we do know that there's many parts of the Bruce that need urgent updating and my thoughts go out to those who are impacted by that recent tragedy. We will continue to invest in the Bruce and work constructively with the state government in this regard. It is obviously such an important road for the whole of Queensland and the beating heart of Queensland's regional areas. So, we know that continued investment, ensuring that it is safety is maintained, is a really important part of what the federal government does.

CLARKE: It's a conversation we'll continue to have with you. Senator, thanks for being with us this morning.

CHISHOLM: Thanks very much, Michael, good to be with you.

CLARKE: Assistant Minister for Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm, with that announcement today with the funding for those roads, including the Burketown Normanton Road, but also, crucially, those roads around the Charters Towers region, Dotswood Road and Myola Road, getting upgrades.